In the early hours of Monday morning, the final four-jet A340 registered in Argentina landed its final commercial flight. The aircraft, registered LV-FPU, was the final jour-jet plane in service for Aerolineas Argentinas which has now retired all its A340s. But what’s next for the airline now the A340s are out of action?
From what was once a 13-strong fleet of A340s, to none, Aerolineas Argentinas has officially retired all its Airbus four-jet plans. It’s not a surprise. Not only did the planes have an average age of 22.5 years, but the airline released a plan last October to modernize and revolutionize its future. Funnily enough, this plan didn’t have room for the outdated A340s.
What’s next for the fleet?
While Aerolineas hasn’t yet confirmed exactly what its plans are to revolutionize its fleet but they have confirmed they will be using A330s to cover the routes. The airline already flies the A330 for its long-haul routes and has said it will need at least four more to cover the A340s routes. However, the airline has not confirmed a firm order for more aircraft.
The airline could, of course, lease the aircraft. Much of its historic fleet was leased including several of the A340s. The main advantages of having a leased fleet include flexibility, reduced maintenance costs and the ability to expand rapidly. With the A340s now retired, the airline will need new aircraft soon if it is planning to expand.
It’s thought that the airline is considering the Airbus A350 as a replacement for the retired A340s. The A350 is the logical replacement. The A350-900 is a smaller jet but it can carry more passengers, it has an extra 500km on its range and its more fuel-efficient. However, the airline currently has no A350s in its fleet. Perhaps we can expect an order soon.
The airline also has five grounded 737 MAX 8 aircraft to consider. Currently, all five aircraft are in storage but should the MAX get back in the sky soon and prove to be a success, the airline may choose to opt for more MAX aircraft.
Revolutionizing the airline
The 737 MAX was integral to the airline’s plans for modernising and expanding. Initially, the MAX 8 was going to be used to open up new routes to the Caribbean and to help build the airline’s network. As announced in its 2018 plans, replacing the long-haul fleet was always seen as key to the airline success in the future.
But with 13 aircraft now retired from its fleet, and no firm orders placed, the airline appears to have only downsized, rather than modernised. The airline also previously said it was interested in retrofitting its narrow-body aircraft. This has been delayed time and time again.
The most likely next step for the airline is to lease several aircraft to cover routes rather than buying them. The national carrier may have big plans for the future but it is still being supported by government funds.
Buying new aircraft and upgrading and retrofitting its current fleet costs money. The airline has dramatically reduced its deficit so it is on the right track but it’s a long way from being a modern, profitable airline.
While we wait to see what the airline’s next steps actually are, we’d be willing to bet that leasing Airbus A350s is highly likely. What do you think is the best thing for the carrier? Are you sad to see the last of the A340s? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.